I’ve been thinking heavily about social media lately and have found the various uses of “lol” to be quite interesting. “Lol,” of course, traditionally means laughing out loud. Now, in no way am I trying to present myself as an expert on social media and with using it. After all, I only have 131,000 readers of my blog, only over 500 Facebook friends, and only over 700 Twitter followers. From this audience, however, I have been able to discover some interesting ways in which “lol” is being used. When I’m chatting with many people via instant messaging, text messaging, and other mediums, I’ve found that “lol” is often used when folks don’t have anything to say and the use of “lol” keeps the conversation moving along. “Lol” gives people an opportunity to think about something to say. I just wonder if the frequent use of “lol” gives poor communicators an easy way out of working to ameliorate their communication skills.
I have also found that “lol” can really articulate that one is a person who laughs all the time. I have to admit that I use “lol” often because I’m one who laughs quite often. It’s certainly not because I have difficulty communicating. After all, my undergraduate and graduate training is in English and I teach English at the university level.
“Lol,” unfortunately, has been and is employed many times to say disrespectful, inappropriate, racist, sexist, mean-spirited, and/or threatening things to people. I want you to know that just because you put “lol” somewhere in a sentence where you have communicated something horrible does not make it all better. You are not going to be successful in saying something hateful with an “lol” and not expect people to see right through how deceptive you are being with your use of “lol.”
I want us to begin to think about the ways in which we use “lol” and the ways in which others use it. I certainly want you to start to expose those people who use “lol” to try to mask their inappropriate or hateful comments. Hopefully, this piece will cause you to focus on the use of “lol” in a deeper way than you have previously thought about it. Although I have not really said anything new or profound in this piece, what I hope that it will do is cause us to bring to the surface some interesting revelations about the use of “lol.” I want us to consider how some people are really changing the meaning of “lol” to mean all kinds of things that are not positive.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison